Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 84

"Wise and Good God, who is the author and owner of our
System." It is conventional to suggest that his interest in the
plurality of worlds and gods should be traced to Plato's
_Timaeus_.[i-448] In the absence of any conclusive evidence concerning
Franklin's study of Plato, and in view of his profound awareness of
contemporary scientific and philosophical thought, it seems more
reasonable to see the source of this idea in the thought of his own age.
Let us remember that with the growth of the heliocentric cosmology there
resulted a vast expanse of the unknown, bound to intrigue the
speculations of the philosophers of the age. We know that Ray, Fenelon,
Blackmore, Huygens, Fontenelle, Shaftesbury, Locke, and Newton all
wondered about the plurality of worlds and gods.

In company with the supernatural rationalists and deists, Franklin
exalted Reason as the experience through which God is discovered and
known. Through Reason he is "capable of observing his Wisdom in the
Creation." With Newtonian zeal, upon observing "the glorious Sun, with
his attending Worlds," he saw the Deity responsible first for imparting
"their prodigious motion," and second for maintaining "the wondrous Laws
by which they move." As we have seen above, this argument from the
design of creation to a Creator was one of the most influential and
popular of the impacts of Newtonian physics. Like Fenelon, Blackmore,
and Ray, whom he read and recommended that others read,[i-449] Franklin
exclaimed:

Thy Wisdom, thy Power, and thy Goodness are everywhere
clearly seen; in the air and in the water, in the Heaven and
on the Earth; Thou providest for the various winged Fowl, and
the innumerable Inhabitants of the Water; thou givest Cold
and Heat, Rain and Sunshine, in their Season, [et cetera].

In addition to the works mentioned above which aided Franklin in
arriving at a natural religion, it is certain that his views and even
idiom received stout reinforcement from such a passage as follows from
Ray's classic work:

There is no greater, at least no more palpable and convincing
argument of the existence of a Deity, than the admirable act
and wisdom that discovers itself in the make and
constitution, the order and disposition, the ends and uses of
all the parts and members of this stately fabric of heaven
and earth; for if in the works of art ... a curious

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Text Comparison with Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America

Page 5
When _minus_ (or when in the common state) it will attract them, but stronger when _minus_ than when in the common state, the difference being greater.
Page 6
The closer the contact between the shoulder of the wire, and the gold at one end of the line, and between the bottom of the bottle and the gold at the other end, the better the experiment succeeds.
Page 8
had also occurred to us some months before Mr _Watson_'s ingenious _Sequel_ came to hand, and these were some of the new things I intended to have communicated to you.
Page 10
_--We electrise a person twenty or more times running, with a touch of the finger on the wire, thus: He stands on wax.
Page 13
11.
Page 15
But this machine is not much used, as not perfectly answering our intention with regard to the ease of charging,.
Page 17
The operator, who holds the picture by the upper-end, where the inside of the frame is not gilt, to prevent its falling, feels nothing of the shock, and may touch the face of the picture without danger, which he pretends is a test of his loyalty.
Page 21
But on taking out the electrical fire, they close again.
Page 24
If much loaded, the electrical fire is at once taken from the whole cloud; and, in leaving it, flashes brightly and cracks loudly; the particles instantly coalescing for want of that fire, and falling in a heavy shower.
Page 28
Sulphureous and inflammable vapours arising from the earth, are easily kindled by lightning.
Page 32
And this form it takes, because it is attracted by all parts of the surface of the body, tho' it cannot enter the substance already replete.
Page 36
And this is constantly observable in these experiments, that the greater quantity of electricity on the pasteboard tube, the farther it strikes or discharges its fire, and the point likewise will draw it off at a still greater distance.
Page 39
Sometimes the glass breaks to pieces: once the upper glass broke into a thousand pieces, looking like coarse salt.
Page 40
26.
Page 41
attract and retain it strongest, and contain the.
Page 43
the bottle, though the same in quantity, cannot be the very same fire that entered at the wire; for if it were, the bottle would remain uncharged.
Page 44
But I suppose farther, that in the cooling of the glass, its texture becomes closest in the middle, and forms a kind of partition, in which the pores are so narrow, that the particles of the electrical fluid, which enter both surfaces at the same time, cannot go through, or pass and repass from one surface to the other, and so mix together; yet, though the particles of electrical fluid, imbibed by each surface, cannot themselves pass through to those of the other, their repellency can, and by this means they act on one another.
Page 45
--Glass, a body extremely elastic (and perhaps its elasticity may be owing in some degree to the subsisting of so great a quantity of this repelling fluid in its pores) must, when rubbed, have its rubbed surface somewhat stretched, or its solid parts drawn a little farther asunder, so that the vacancies in which the electrical fluid resides, become larger, affording room for more of that fluid, which is immediately attracted into it from the cushion or hand rubbing, they being supply'd from the common stock.
Page 49
a strong purgative liquid, and then charged the phial, and took repeated shocks from it, in which case every particle of the electrical fluid must, before it went through my body, have first gone through the liquid when the phial is charging, and returned through it when discharging, yet no other effect followed than if it had been charged with water.
Page 52
The whole illustrated with Notes and References to the principal Geographers whose different Sentiments are cited and examined.